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A Startlement

They have slaughtered my little daughter . . .
she was so sweet and beautiful and sincere,
yet now these men of God have run a sword
through her throat, and her expression of surprise -
a startlement that anyone would think to harm her -
this will live in my eyes the remainder of my life . . .
she was not afraid, not until the last second or so,
when she knew her life was fleeing her body.

My fury has no facial expression;  my eyes see
the vast hatred, my nostrils fill with the smell of blood;
these evil men are slaying all the townspeople, my fists
are rocks with the resolve to live to take my revenge.

My God, my God, where are You in this carnage . . .
why are You on the side of these evil men?
Their leader wears a cardinal's cape, but how
have You chosen him to be a man of the cloth?
What have we done in this town to have earned
such a furious punishment?

Our poets say we go round and round
this simple town, round and round,
yet this turning is so hard,
so hard at times,
so hard . . .
our souls are 
won so hard.

Robert of Geneva (1342-1394), a cardinal and the Pope's Legate in Italy, hired the mercenary forces of Sir John Hawkwood to help put down a rebellion of the Papal States. The mercenaries occupied one of the towns in rebellion, Cesena, where Robert assured the people -- swearing an oath on his cardinal's cap -- he would grant clemency if they laid down their arms. Once they obeyed, Robert ordered the mercenaries to slaughter them. For three days, beginning February 3, 1377, the soldiers murdered, raped and tortured unchecked. The amount of victims has been estimated between 2,500 and 5,000 people. It was in this town that Hawkwood, in mimicry of Solomon, was reported to have intervened when two of his soldiers were fighting over a nun - he hacked the woman in half. The following year, Robert became the antipope, leading what came to be known as the Western Schism of the Church. He established his papacy at Avignon, France.

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